For this relatively small city, Florence has something for everyone looking for a spot or two to plant themselves for a drink in the evening. Florence’s drinking vibe is mostly informal rather than posh, though the locals do love any excuse to get dressed up. Florentines tend not to drink much compared to their English-speaking or European counterparts, and you will rarely see a drunk Florentine, but going out for a drink is a good excuse as any to socialise, to be seen and meet up with friends. Here’s a quick guide on the areas and types of watering holes around town.
While the locals love cocktails and wine, there are more than a handful of pubs in the centre to satisfy the local expat community and visitors who like nothing more than a bit of elbow-bending with a cold beer. Try some of the great Italian beers on offer: Nastro Azzurro, Peroni and Moretti may be familiar to most, but Menabrea is difficult to find outside of the country and is a fantastic choice. When asking for your birra take note that it usually comes in a small size, piccola, or medium, media, which corrsponds to a half pint and a pint, respectively. If you want it from the tap ask for birra alla spina as opposed to in bottiglia, a bottle. For a pale beer, ask for a birra bionda or chiara, a birra rossa will get you a red-amber brew, and a birra scura, a stout.
You can find a string of pubs frequented by young locals and rowdy students in Santa Croce’s Via dei Benci, while scattered throughout the centre, Irish pubs can be found in most of the main piazzas of Florence. For beer aficionados, there is one brewery in town, found at the Porta San Frediano in the local neighborhood quarter of the oltrarno.
For the more sophisticated crowd, head to the neighborhood of San Niccolò where you will find the fashionable locals sipping on cocktails. In the warm weather, these establishments tend to spill out onto the streets, where you can more easily see and be seen. Internationally-known cocktails are popular, so ordering a mojito, caprioska, or even a vodka tonic will need no translation, but if you want something more Italian, ask for a negroni (Campari, vermouth, gin), an americano (Campari, vermouth and soda) or anything with Campari, a bittersweet, ruby-red coloured alcohol made from herbs and highly reminiscent of cough-syrup. You will soon become addicted. For something a little lighter, ask for a prosecco, a sparkling wine. Expect to pay between 7-10 euro (and sometimes more) for one drink.
Artsy and alternative types will find themselves at home in Piazza Santo Spirito, where most of the rowd tend to buy a cheap beer from one of the little “minimarkets” nearby and sit out on the steps of the Renaissance church. In the summer, a small bar is set up in the middle of the piazza and there are often live concerts to add to the lively atmosphere. There are also several artsy bars in the piazza if you prefer a proper table and chair.
A few rules to keep in mind: The minimum drinking age in Italy is 16 years; shops cannot sell alcohol after 10:00pm and bars by law close at 2:00am.